I found out about Jellystone when my sister visited with her family. They stayed in the "Yurt", which is basically a high-tech sturdy tent, complete with a 1/2 bathroom and flat screen television. That's pretty cool tent camping! I really need to tell you about my sister's trip because she has a daughter who is autistic, with a service dog, Reece....he's also part of the family!
Coyote Ranch is Great for Kids on the Spectrum
It's hard for families who have a child with Autism to know if a particular vacation spot is going to be a good fit for their family's needs. So, I will share what my sister said...she would recommend Jellystone at Wichita Falls for families who have children with Autism.
The laid-back country pace of this particular location was a great comfort for my niece, and the Park Rangers at Coyote Ranch were very accommodating to her and Reece. The Yurt is located near the dog run, which Reece loved. The schedule of activities was fantastic for her because my niece needs to know what to expect and does best with scheduled time. She loved the animals.
My niece went bike riding at Coyote Ranch, and although she didn't feel comfortable actually getting on the Hey Hey Ride, she was able to follow behind on her bike, allowing her to still feel included in all the fun. The jumping pillow is a great sensory activity, and she had a blast jumping until her heart was content. She and Reece made their way through the maze together, but my sister isn't sure if that would have happened so easily without Reece.
My niece was also able to do a little bit of roaming on the property, with my sister keeping a safe eye on her at a far enough distance for my niece to feel a sense of independence. The greatest thing is that she felt normal and comfortable at Jellystone's Coyote Ranch location because of its relaxed feel and understanding staff. It all promoted a great sense of calm, with no over-stimulation for a child on the spectrum.
Everyone is a "Camper"
Because my family is terrified at the thought of "roughing it", we opted for a cabin on our getaway. I thought it would be neat for the kids to have their own little space, so we got a loft.
I know staying in cabins is not the same as a hotel. This is the upgraded version of roughing it, but technically it's still considered "camping". I KNOW it qualifies as camping because all the guests at Jellystone are called "campers". I needed some inside info about this camping stuff.
Camping Questions and Answers
So, I called ahead and asked a million questions to be prepared....questions like:
Our trip was planned during the middle of the week, with a 2-night stay because we always seem to be short on having free time.
When we arrived at Jellystone, check-in was a breeze. The loft was so amazing, my husband didn't want to leave it. It was perfect for our needs. We had a kitchen, and somehow ended up with 2 coffee pots in our cabin.
I guess Jellystone knows how much we love coffee!!! I had brought a bunch of food because we were "camping", and you are supposed to fend for yourself while camping instead of going out to eat...I was prepared!!
The top of the loft was not as cool in temperature as the 1st floor, but there was a fan in the loft. We made the mistake of turning our a/c down to under 70...that was a mistake because it quickly became an arctic winter inside. We unpacked and immediately headed out to participate in all the activities that the Park Rangers had planned for the kids to do.
Every 30 minutes all day is packed with fun for kids.
The kids got some archery time in, they played laser tag in the maze, and jumped on the gigantic pillows. We swam, ate ice cream, made S'mores, and at the end of the night, the kids were pooped.
I really think what wore them out the most was the maze because it was so huge! Parents can watch from a platform above, which came in handy keeping up with them during laser tag. It's especially handy when your 6 year old suddenly decides that laser tag is not her thing. I had to go in the maze to "rescue" her. In her defense, she didn't quit shooting people on her way out of the maze...she kept shooting until she was out of there!
There are lots of unexpected "surprises" that we stumbled upon...like the rabbit inside the ranger station & all the chickens running around that you can pick up and hold! Unfortunately, we missed some of the planned activities because we spent a good chunk of time in the pool and playing at the splash pad. But we really needed to cool off after all that fun.
The Digital Scavenger Hunt
The next morning, our day started with a "digital" scavenger hunt, which is a fun way to explore the premises and pay attention to some of the little themed details that Jellystone put lots of thought into. We met Yogi Bear for the flag-raising ceremony and we even said the Pledge of Allegiance together!
Then the chickens all raced out of their coops and made a mad dash for the ranger station. Next was the Hey Hey Hey Ride, which stopped at the barn. The kids got to hand-feed the goats, except our 11 year old germophobe watched from a distance.
Get A Discount at Castaway Cove WaterPark in Wichita Falls
The next day we went to the Castaway Cove WaterPark in Wichita Falls. Jellystone sells tickets to the water park for $15, which is a significant discount from the regular admission price depending on date you go.
The water park was small enough to not be overwhelming for the kids. There was only one ride that they were too little for. The rest of the water park was perfect for them! We spent a lot of time floating around the lazy river and in the wave pool. The kids went down the rides several times, and they thought it was the best thing ever!
We were worn out after the water park, but not too worn out for 'Smores.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when visiting Jellystone in Wichita Falls:
My kids kept pointing out that there was a laundry building near our cabin, and they kept telling me I needed to do laundry...because I do so much of it, they think it's my hobby. I had to break the news to them that laundry is the one thing that I'm NOT doing while on vacation. But if you need to do laundry and forgot laundry supplies, no worries. The office has laundry detergent.